In Hamburg, Zinos has a restaurant serving poor-man's fare; he gets by, but his girlfriend has taken a job in Shanghai, he's hurt his back and can't cook, his feckless brother can be on daily parole from jail only if Zinos employs him (though his brother doesn't want to work), a school acquaintance wants to buy the restaurant property, and the tax authority and health inspector are on his case. Zinos hires a temperamental chef and loses all his customers, signs a power of attorney giving his brother full authority at the restaurant, and buys a ticket to Shanghai. Is this a recipe for disaster?Written by
Performed by Solomun & H.O.S.H. (MLADEN SOLOMUN and HOLGER BEHN) See more »
Nicely balanced, generous film from Germany"s most interesting director
With films like Against the Wall, Crossing the Bridge and The Edge of Heaven, Faith Akin has set a high aesthetic bar at which his newest work inevitably stumbles. Which is not to say that the film is a failure by any means, simply that it must be judged as a minor work in this impressive directors oeuvre.
Set in Hamburg's seedy demi-monde, the film relates the fortunes of the Soul Kitchen restaurant and its unhappy-go-lucky proprietor, with a protein-rich narrative arc from wretched normality through multiple adversities to a slightly more hopeful normality. And while the restaurant moves up-scale gastronomically the story remains comfort food throughout, providing plenty of opportunities for comic set pieces and tragi-comic misunderstandings.
What we end up with is a patchwork of scenes, connected by a narrative strand that connects property speculation, prostitution, drugs and music. None of it quite makes sense, but this is a film ruled by the heart and not the head. What it lacks in precision it makes up for in warmth.
In general the performances are impressive, and the unavoidable Moritz Bleibtreu (who seems to be compulsory casting in any German film worth its salt) is particularly engaging as the protagonist's jailbird brother, constantly swinging his prayer beads as hustles.
The film's lightness of touch is perhaps its saving grace: the music complements the story without dominating; food and cookery play a subordinate, if enjoyable role, but never do we get too bogged down in the niceties of nouvelle cuisine. And this must be the first major film in which Skype plays such a major role. Product placement perhaps but very realistically done.
Another enjoyable aspect is the way in which the interplay of cultures - Greek, Turkish, German, whatever - is handled in a no-nonsense workmanlike way. Perhaps it takes a German of Turkish extraction to do this. My feeling is that other German directors would be more sheepish in their handling of these issues.
In conclusion I'd say that the film is good, not great, and shows that Faith Akin can also make a gentle, feel-good comedy without compromising his higher aesthetic achievements.
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